Sixteen Midstate teenagers learned about drones, data science and how it relates to solving real-world problems with precision agriculture during the second Middle Tennessee State University Digital Agriculture Camp.
High school students like Miracle Brown of Lebanon, Tennessee, and Wilson Israel of Brentwood, Tennessee, who are already involved with agriculture-related programs, pondering ag careers and considering attending MTSU following high school graduation.
The nearly three-week camp, which ran from May 31 through June 16, saw them not only design, build and fly their own drone at the MTSU Farm in Lascassas, Tennessee, but make decisions based on data they collected from the unmanned aircraft. The effort was led by School of Agriculture faculty members Song Cui and Chaney Mosley.
A rising junior at Lebanon High School involved with FFA leadership activities and self-described horticulturalist, Brown said she “loved the camp. I’ve been able to learn so many new things. We constructed new drones. We got to work with soil scientists (Samuel Haruna) and with Dr. Cui on small scale farming and precision agriculture.”
Brown said she “had already wanted to go to MTSU” before coming to the camp, which allowed her “to meet people who have become friends and professors — getting these connections now that are so important.”
Israel, 17, a rising senior who is homeschooled, said he was “clearly gaining a lot of knowledge (at the camp). I like using my hands, so I’ve been gaining a lot of technical skills.”
Involved in 4-H since the fourth grade, Israel said he “is thinking about MTSU (as a college choice). I’m trying to figure out what it has to offer.”
Aerospace Department associate professor Kevin Corns, assisted by Daryl Hickman and Cameron Barnes, guided the ninth- through 11th-grade students through the building and flying of the drones.
“They spent time in the lab where they built these 3D-printed drones,” Corns said. “They get a chance to experience some of the ups and downs of building your own aircraft. We had to work through issues and problems just like the real world. We give them a chance to fly smaller drones. We put them on simulators. It all ties in to data science and precision agriculture.”
MTSU math and science doctoral student Carly Altman of Tifton, Georgia, now living in Murfreesboro, assisted organizers. She said the campers were split into three groups to solve an agriculture-based problem, “using the tools they learned from agriculture, aerospace and data science to present and solve the problem from data they collected on plants and soils, and, thus, solving their issue.”
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)